On behalf of all horse riders in Scotland, The British Horse Society has submitted a document to the Land Reform Review Group (LRRG) in response to a call for evidence on the Land Reform Scotland 2003 Act (LRSA) which is ten years old this year.
The ground-breaking LRSA confirmed that horse riders enjoy the same rights of access as walkers, cyclists and the disabled to most land, with further clarification of how this works on the ground provided by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
The Act placed a duty on those taking access to do so responsibly, a duty on land owners to support the spirit of the act by facilitating access where possible, and a duty on access authorities to enforce and uphold the legislation.
Working in close partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage and other organisations, the BHS ran a six-year access education programme to raise awareness of riders’ responsibilities in exercising their access rights, and continues to run an advocacy service and provide equestrian access advice and education to all.
Through its network of local access representatives and affiliated access groups, the BHS is delighted that in some parts of Scotland, the Land Reform Scotland Act is working well, and riders have been able to enjoy greatly increased access as a result of this leading edge legislation.
However, the BHS is also acutely aware by the daily access problems with which it is dealing in other parts, that riders still find themselves effectively locked out of the countryside. Ladder stiles, kissing gates and cattle grids without adjacent provision are as much barriers to access as padlocked gates.
Vyv Wood Gee, chairman of the BHS Scotland Access committee, said: “It is highly appropriate that the 10th anniversary of the introduction of Scotland’s pioneering access legislation, in theory the most inclusive and forward thinking of any in Europe, is celebrated by a review of its successes and shortcomings.
“We welcome the opportunity to examine how, why and where the Land Reform Scotland Act is working for horse riders – and where it is not.
“We have worked hard to draft a constructive document for the Group and offer our vision of how the LRSA could work better than it does at present, based on consultations not only with riders, but also with other key organisations involved in access and equestrianism in Scotland.
“We really hope that our submission, along with those of other access bodies will persuade the LRRG to further examine some short comings in Part 1 of the LRSA because access to safe off-road riding with multi-user access is so important to horse riders and fundamental to the well-being of the equine industry in Scotland.”